I’ve been thinking a lot about our presence in Iraq lately, and the … vigorous debate over the meaning and purpose of that presence. One sees, on the hawkish side of things, a common conceit that critics of administration policy want, deep down, for us to lose in the Middle East and get our asses kicked back across the Atlantic.

I’ve been thinking about that, and this is my feeling.

I want us to win in Iraq. I want to see a liberal democracy in place there, I want Iraq to overcome the challenge of unifying multiple ethnic and sectarian differences in a diverse state that Iraqis can be proud of, and I want that new state to be a stabilizing and improving influence throughout the region. I want us to help Afghanistan and Liberia to similar successes.

I also want it to be remembered that the Bush administration has done a damn poor job with this noble crusade — that they have, at various points, completely neglected to fund followup efforts in Afghanistan, sold out our Kurdish allies for Turkish help which wasn’t even forthcoming, inflated evidence, deliberately antagonized allies, wreaked havoc on what few international institutions we have, based a chaotic excuse for a reconstruction plan on the say-so of some berserk think tanks citing Iraqi exiles with glaring biases and vested interests, and throughout it all kept the American people in the dark, without ever even acknowledging the fact that the American public has an interest and a right to know what its government is doing and plans to do.

These are not always easy positions to reconcile. It’s hard to know how to feel when the government persists in doing the right thing the wrong way. We’re the goddamn United States of America. We can do better than this.

Originally published on LiveJournal

(Ed. note 5/29/21: Even more than the rest of my writings about Iraq, this is embarrassingly neoliberal in retrospect, but I feel like intellectual honesty demands its preservation.  It was 2003, I was an Ivy-League-educated 27-year-old, failures of perspective were perhaps predictable.)